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Viral Hall of Fame 2009

Viral Hall of Fame 2009
California State Parks Foundation's Friend Get A Friend Campaign

MarketingSherpa Summary:
Faced with massive cuts in state funding and the potential closure of 220 California state parks, this nonprofit organization launched a multichannel effort to drum up support. Two simple Facebook updates helped pull in hundreds of thousands of donation dollars, tens of thousands of Facebook fans, and over three-times as many email subscribers as before.

Agency: Adams Hussey & Associates
Client/company: California State Parks Foundation
Brand campaign was conducted for: California State Parks Foundation: Save Our State Parks
Launch date of campaign: May 26, 2009
Target audience/demographic: California voters and park enthusiasts

Campaign Goal:
At the end of May 2009, CSPF learned about state budget cuts that would greatly affect the parks. They quickly made plans for a multi-channel effort to stop the budget cuts and 220 looming park closures. The goal was to generate grassroots support for saving the state parks, stopping or reducing the general funding cuts, building CSPF's email file and to raise funds.

The effort included direct mail, telemarketing, email, and social networking. As a main part of the online strategy, the team made daily updates to the homepage with the latest news, created an Action Center on the site, and optimized their existing Facebook fan page to promote awareness, discussion, and hopefully attract new activists and members. "Find us on Facebook" language and graphics were featured in every email and all over the site. "The Friend Get a Friend" campaign launched on Tuesday, May 26, on Facebook via an update to 517 fans. The update explained to recipients the imminent threat parks were facing and set a deadline -- Friday, May 29 -- and a goal -- 5,000 fans. "This year's cuts are 10 times as bad, so we need 10 times the fans on Facebook." The second Facebook update was sent Monday, June 1 at 12:12 p.m. PST, stressing a 24-hour deadline, asking for fans and petition signatures. The California budget committee was scheduled to meet on June 2, so media coverage was at its height and the team was in contact with the house file and CSPF's partners online and on the phone. CSPF sent out emergency donation requests in all channels and had an online petition to stop park closures.

Seed Strategy:
The team used CSPF's house and partner files to initially get the word out, emailing about 22,000 people along with direct phone calls, and an "urgent gram." "The Friend Get a Friend" campaign on Facebook, along with social ads and search engine PPC ads, were highly successful and were supported by the mass media buzz the budget cuts created.

Buzz Generated:
The massive growth of this fan page caught the media's attention and was mentioned on several TV news spots and in national news articles. The CA budget cuts were all over the news on- and offline, and several mentioned the Facebook growth and grassroots swell in Sacramento. Here are some examples:

Specific (Goal-Related) Campaign Results:
The team continues to work to save the parks. While California's budget that was passed at the end of July 2009 will not close the originally proposed 220 parks, 100 are still on the chopping block.

  • The number of Facebook fans grew from 517 to 45,000
  • The cross-channel campaign has raised several hundred thousand dollars in non-member one time gifts
  • CSPF has more than tripled the size of its email file, and has acquired many new activists that are being converted to donors online and via the telephone at wonderful conversion rates.
  • A subsequent Facebook and Twitter promotion of the Frequent Visitor membership level gained 285 new members in four days.

Biggest Lesson:
Big lesson learned is that social networking completely compliments fundraising and advocacy campaigns. Also, a tight deadline always spurs action online, and when supporters can get instant feedback on the effects of their efforts (seeing fan numbers grow) it makes them even more motivated. What we would do differently is to:

A) Start the Twitter campaign earlier to further grow the campaign followers and file

B) Institute better back-end tracking on clicks and conversions on where supporters were coming from for our main online promotions.